5 Green Data Center Startups You Need to Know

This week we’ll be kicking off the GigaOM Network’s (our parent company) third annual event focused on cloud computing and Internet infrastructure, Structure 2010, in San Francisco. In honor of the big event, which will feature speakers like Paul Maritz, the CEO of VMWare (s VMW), Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce.com (s CRM), and Paul Sagan, the CEO of Akamai (s AKAM), we’ve decided to round up 5 green data center startups to watch.

These companies are using the latest computing tech to redesign, restructure and remake data centers and servers around energy efficiency. Here we go in no particular order:

1). Power Assure: Power Assure is a startup founded three years ago that makes a software-as-a-service product that can ramp up and down the power consumption of data centers to coincide with the demand of its web company users. The idea is to make the energy needed to power data centers could be like your favorite cable show — on demand. That way in the middle of the night, when few people are pinging Power Assure’s customers’ websites, the service can reduce energy consumption appropriately, and when there’s a sudden spike of traffic in the morning, the service can quickly ramp capacity back up. The company says it can produce savings of 50-60 percent in energy costs and not have a negative impact on the customers’ web service.

Power Assure is backed by Draper Fisher Jurvetson (see DFJ Managing Director Steve Jurvetson talk about the company in this video clip), and has scored $5 million in grants from the Department of Energy. The company has also more recently boosted its funding to $10.75 million and is looking to raise another $2.75 million on top of that, according to an SEC filing.

2). SeaMicro: Low-power server maker SeaMicro is stealthy no longer. Last week the under-the-radar Santa Clara, Calif.-based company, which is backed by at least $25 million from venture firms Khosla Ventures and Draper Fisher Jurvetson, finally unveiled its server technology that consumes a quarter of the power of a regular server but packs more than 2,000 CPU cores and costs $139,000. The startup uses Atom chips and its own specially designed silicon to manage the networking. The bet is that Internet bigwigs like Amazon and Facebook will be willing to buy servers from a new startup to save on the ever-increasing energy costs of computing.

In addition to the high-profile venture capitalists that see the promise of SeaMicro’s technology, the Department of Energy awarded the startup a $9.3 million grant.

3). Iceotope: Startup Iceotope dunks entire server motherboards into modules that are filled with an “inert liquid” that doesn’t short out the delicate electronics. The 3-year-old startup from Sheffield, UK, which just came out of stealth at the end of last year, has been demonstrating a liquid-cooled server setup that it says has the potential to cut data center cooling costs by up to 93 percent. The firm raised a round of financing in early 2008 from EV Group.

Iceotope plans to sell its technology widely sometime in the second half of 2010. The concept isn’t entirely new. For years, hardcore computer enthusiasts have been submerging their computer hardware in substances like mineral oil or 3M’s Fluorinert product to counteract the immense heat caused by their performance-enhancing tweaks. It works because liquids are much better at transferring heat than air.

4). 1E: The solution to cutting data center energy could be as simple as smarter power management for servers. One-sixth of the world’s servers are not being used at all, wasting $24.7 billion a year, including $3.8 billion in energy-related costs. And out of the world’s 44 million servers, roughly 4.7 million of them are idle and not doing necessary work. 1IE, which launched its power management for servers late last year, uses smart algorithms to determine which servers are doing useful work and which ones aren’t, as well as how much energy they’re using and when. 1E also says its “NightWatchman Server Edition” can power down servers into a drowsy state, cutting their energy use by 12 percent.

5). Fusion-io: Traditionally taking the form of spinning disks, data storage also sucks a whole lot of power. Fusion-io has developed a solid state storage technology (no moving parts) that consists of a module stuffed with hundreds of Flash drives on a PCI Express card. The card has the storage capacity of 80-320 gigabytes and plugs into a standard server. The company says the costs to power and cool the modules “are less than one percent” of the costs to power and cool hard disk drives, and because the modules are snapped into the server, the architecture takes up a lot less space than traditional hard drives.

One high-profile customer that Fusion-io has managed to score: MySpace. MySpace told the Cleantech Group that it invested hundreds of thousands dollars into buying Fusion-io’s storage tech, and that it has been saving around $120,000 per year.

To learn more about data center and Internet infrastructure energy use, come to our Structure event on June 23 and 24 in San Francisco, Calif.

For more research on green data centers check out GigaOM Pro (subscription required):

Google: Servers Should Be More Like People

Is Software the Key to Green Data Centers?

Report: Green Data Center Design Strategies

Images courtesy of Fusion-io, PowerAssure, clayirving’s Flickr feed and s_w_ellis’ photostream Creative Commons.